Australia’s comparative success against COVID-19 has eclipsed another biosecurity war we are losing, according to producers in far north Queensland.
Atherton corn farmer Jeff Reisen said the fall armyworm, which was first detected on Australian soil two months before the pandemic, is now threatening our entire food industry.
“This is the silent killer. The state governments and the federal government have to come together and fix this problem or there will be no more food on the table,” Reisen said.
The moth has a destructive appetite for corn, grass and sorghum – all the crops on which the Australian livestock industry relies.
Since arriving on the continent in January last year, the FAW has spread to Queensland, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and northern New South Wales.
Mr Reisen runs a small grain farm in 150 hectares of country and said he was one of many to consider giving up corn.
“It is not profitable to operate with the FAW and if Australia cannot continue to produce corn, the whole agricultural industry will fall. We will end up importing food.”
Mr Reisen calls on the government to support a new management strategy, using the white mushroom Nomuraea Rileyi which eats the worm from the inside.
“I think it will work, we see that it works very well in some paddocks, but we don’t have enough of it yet,” he said.
Hill MP Shane Knuth said if something is not done it could turn into a national disaster.
“This worm is decimating crops across the country and farmers cannot keep spraying,” Mr. Knuth said.
“We need both state and federal governments to fight this as it continues to spread.”
It is not profitable to operate with the FAW, and if Australia cannot continue to produce corn, the entire agricultural industry will fall.
Mr Knuth has raised concerns about damage to Hill’s electorate to state Agriculture Minister Mark Furner.
Mr Reisen said the cost of spraying means his business won’t make a profit.
“I’m lost because I don’t know which direction I’m going to go. We could just stop growing corn, but then the poultry, dairy, pig and animal industries will no longer have food to feed their animals.”